July 9, 2012

0273 UNITED KINGDOM (Falkland Islands) - Gentoo Penguin

The long-tailed gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) is most closely related to the Adélie penguin (P. adeliae) and the chinstrap penguin (P. antarcticus). The first scientific description was made in 1781 by Johann Reinhold Forster with a reference point of the Falkland Islands. Are recognised two sub-species of this penguin, Pygoscelis papua papua and the smaller Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii. They are easily recognized by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head and its bright orange-red bill.

An adult reach a height of up to 90cm, and a maximum weight more than 8kg, being the fastest underwater swimming penguin. They prefer shallow coastal areas and often nest between tufts of grass. The total breeding population is estimated to be over 300,000 pairs, the main colonies being on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Kerguelen Islands. Although not threatened with extinction, the gentoo penguins colonies on sub-Antarctic islands decreased considerably. Possible reasons include local pollution, interaction with fisheries, and disturbance by humans, including the presence of scientific bases.

I find it very interesting and commendable that in Wikitravel is specified (in chapter "Respect") that in Falkland Islands exists a Country Code, that should be followed by visitors, in which they are advised to:
- not touch, handle, injure or kill any wild bird or other wild animal
- never feed any wild animals
- always give animals the right of way. Remember not to block the routes of seabirds and seals coming ashore to their colonies
- try to prevent any undue disturbance to wild animals. Stay on the outside of bird and seal colonies. Remain at least six metres away. When taking photographs or filming stay low to the ground. Move slowly and quietly. Do not startle or chase wildlife from resting or breeding areas.

Very nice that nature conservation has become a common rule of behavior in the Falkland Islands, especially that there live some endemic species and sub-species. This means that the locals have learned from past mistakes, in 1876 in Falkland Islands being recorded the first extinct canid in historical times, the warrah, the only native land mammal of the islands, and also an endemic species.

About the stamps
The two stamps are part of the commemorative series 30th Anniversary of Liberation, about which I wrote here.

Falkland Islands – Wikipedia
Falkland Islands – Wikitravel
Wildlife of the Falkland Islands – Wikipedia
Gentoo penguin – Polar Conservation Organisation site
Gentoo penguin – Arkive, images of life on earth

Vanessa (Falkland Island Philatelic Bureau)
Sent from Stanley (Falkland Island), on 14.06.2012
Photo: Nick Bonner

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